Brubaker, Bears battle to win Finals opener

Pittsburgh righty deals for six frames, West Virginia walks off in 11th

In his pro debut, Jonathan Brubaker went 6-4 with a 2.82 ERA over 15 starts for West Virginia. (Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)

By Kelsie Heneghan / MiLB.com | September 15, 2015 1:45 AM

For Black Bears manager Wyatt Toregas, deciding who to start for Game 1 of the New York-Penn League Finals wasn't a difficult one.

Jonathan Brubaker ended up being a smart pick as he held the Yankees to a run on two hits and a walk while striking out six in six frames as Class A Short Season West Virginia edged Staten Island, 4-3, in the opener of the best-of-3 Championship Series.

"He's been very good for us this year, so it was an easy choice," Toregas said. "He was a day over his five-day rest, so he was a little more fresh. We had it lined up like that and he was ready to go. He was the right guy for the spot and he's earned it."

While he didn't have his best pitch, Brubaker was nearly unscathed in his first professional postseason start. Only a solo shot by Yankees left fielder Zack Zehner in the second scuffed his line. After issuing a leadoff walk to No. 13 Yankees prospect Kyle Holder in the third, the 21-year-old righty retired the final 11 batters he faced. Holder was caught stealing along the way.

"His fastball early on didn't have the life it normally had, but he understood that his slider was on and it was working well," Toregas said. "I think for him, he has different weapons and based on what is working that night, he can tailor his game to what it needs to be effective."

After the Yankees tied the game in the eighth when Zehner doubled in one run and scored the other, Toregas felt the momentum shift toward the away team. And although the box gives reliever Tate Scioneaux a blown save since he allowed an inherited baserunner to score the tying run, the manager didn't see it that way.

"There definitely were some emotional ups and downs. It was one of those nights where, thank God, that it was home game," Toregas said. "We had Scioneaux on the mound and he's an energy source for us. I'm going to give Tate and the crowd a lot of credit for our win. The home crowd stayed in the game, stayed loud, they let [the Yankees] know we weren't done.  

"And Tate being on the mound, he's that guy that when he's in there, you know he's not going to give anything up. He's very confident and a very good pitcher."

With the 22-year-old right posting zeros for three frames and Daniel Zamora (1-0) following with a 1-2-3 11th, the Black Bears just had to score again. Mitchell Tolman led off with an infield single off Jonny Drozd. Christian Kelley walked and Ty Moore delivered a sacrifice bunt. Daniel Arribas took a 2-2 offering from reliever Michael Schaub to center for a walk-off single.

"He's been very clutch for us lately. He had a big home run in the first series for us, he had another big hit for us in the second game of that series, and then [Monday] he comes up with the big hit," Toregas said of Arribas. "I think now there isn't anybody else I would rather have at the plate with the game on the line than him. There's a reason why he's in our four-hole right now."

The Black Bears hit the road one win away from sealing the championship. But after battling until the last day of the season for a Wild-Card spot, Toregas said his team is feeling loose under pressure. The Yankees host Game 2 at 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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